Spanish legal authorities have ruled in favour of a blind 23-year-old law graduate who called for people with his disability to be allowed to become judges.
“Can a blind person like me carry out the work duties of a magistrate?” was the question sent by Gabriel Pérez Castellanos to the official body days after completing his Law degree in July 2013.
Ten months on and several adjournments later, Pérez Castellanos finally got the response he was hoping for.
Spain’s General Council of the Judiciary ruled unanimously on Tuesday that blind people can access state entrance exams to qualify as judges even though their job responsibilities may have to be adapted to suitable cases.
According to the report, evidence used in court that “can only be assessed with one’s eyesight” is limited and “not enough to completely rule out blind people from a career in the judiciary”.
“I’m very happy, of course,” the young man told The Local.
Having scored 7.9 in his Law degree (equivalent to a First Class Honours degree in the UK), Pérez Castellanos is now completing a Master’s degree at Garrigues, Spain’s biggest law firm.
“The plan is to focus on labour law,” he said of his future plans.
And while the budding lawyer admitted it would be more difficult for a blind person to be a judge — as would be the case for many professions — he thought none of the challenges were insurmountable.
“The main task of judges is to make decisions based on their knowledge of the law,” he said.
Pérez Castellanos told the Local doesn’t view himself as a spokespeson for blind people but admits he had been amazed, and delighted, by the repsonse to his situation.
Online petition website Change.org collected more than 100,000 signatures in support of Pérez Castellanos’ legal struggle.
Brazil, France, Peru and the UK already employ blind judges as stipulated in the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.